There are a boy and his dragon who deserve to have a safe landing among the Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Sure, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” will be nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it’s worthy of much higher academy consideration, too. Here are my five reasons why:
1. Three in 87 years? Come on!
Twenty-two years ago “Beauty and the Beast” made history by being the first animated feature to score a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Eighteen years later — and only after the Academy decided to up its Best Picture nominations from five to as many as 10 — “Up” pulled off the same feat along with “Toy Story 3” the following year (2011). Those are just three animated films in the Oscar’s 87-year history that have managed to squeak into the ultimate awards category. If Oscar is paying attention, this year we should see another added to that exclusive list: “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
2. Animated Feature Oscar just isn’t enough.
Yes, it’s great that animated films get their due at the Oscars with their own category, but let’s face it. It just isn’t the same. “Toy Story 3” may have won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2011, but it didn’t reign as Best Picture. That title belonged to “The King Speech.” Animated films need one of their own to take the big prize home so that opens the door for all others. “Beauty and the Beast” arguably came the closest with its historic nomination and it may well be another story about a beast and the one he loves that’ll make history in the big race.
3. Oscar needs heart, and “Dragon” has it.
“Gone Girl,” “Boyhood,” “Birdman,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything” — all are top contenders for the Best Picture Oscar according to our Gold Derby racetrack odds, but which one of these would you sit the entire family down to enjoy? Which of these is one you’d watch to lift you up on a day you’re not feeling so hot? Which of these could make you laugh, cry and teach you about love and life all in just 102 minutes? Which of these has the most heart? The only one to claim all of these is “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and that’s a message the Oscars desperately need after taking nearly 30 years to award something lighthearted like “The Artist” in 2012.
4. Oscar needs popular, and that “Dragon” is.
At the beginning of nearly every Oscar telecast we always hear the host boast about how the Oscars are being watched by about a billion people worldwide. So, to keep those worldwide billion interested, you surely want to include films they’ve all actually watched. While there have been two more high-profile animated films out this year — “The Lego Movie” back in February and the three-week-old “Big Hero 6” — sandwiched right in between those two was this year’s most successful animated feature. So far, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” has amassed $619 million. Though “Big Hero 6” has just started its stretch, that would be quite a feat for it to reach. “Lego” nearly has $470 million worldwide and that is eye-popping. I’m going to make an educated estimate and say “How to Train Your Dragon 2” doesn’t get challenged.
5. Drama is easy, Comedy’s hard. But animation is even harder.
You think “Boyhood” is quite a feat having taken 12 years to film, but that’s only because the film is paced out over 12 years using the exact same cast. Great stunt, but not worthy of being overly praised. You want a crazy timetable? How about what writer/director Dean DeBlois told Gold Derby in an exclusive interview about creating his feature: “In live-action, you do all the pre-production, all of the art department stuff. You cast the movie and go out and shoot it and then you edit it. In our process we edit up front. We edit the storyboards before anything’s been animated. We take all of our storyboards, we cut them together with temporary dialog, temporary sound effects, temporary music, and we watch it as a film. However, it’s drawn out over the course of three years. So, instead of shooting a movie in three months and everything’s a manic pace, we have three years.” Listen to the rest of the process, as well as his thoughts on the Oscars and why he thought the original “Dragon” didn’t take home the gold in 2011 in our exclusive podcast interview below.
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